Tuesday, March 22, 2016

This (Non) Sporting Life: Highs and Lows

Hi there! Dave-El here and welcome to I’m So Glad My Suffering Amuses You, a blog without any TV time outs. Today is another installment of This (Non) Sporting Life, a blog post about sports from a guy who doesn’t know much about sports.

Here are some thoughts about this past weekend’s NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.

My wife Andrea is a North Carolina Tarheels fan and as such, she is harder on the Tarheels than I am and I’m a Duke fan. (See this prior post on this subject.)  North Carolina drew a #1 seed in the tournament so they get the privilege of starting off against a #16 seed. While a #16 seed has never beaten a #1 seed, there have been years where at least one #16 seed would keep a #1 seed on the ropes for at least part of the game. This year, it was Florida Gulf Coast which was only down by 1 at the end of the first half against North Carolina. Andrea was not happy. Online on Facebook, Twitter and other social media, other Carolina fans were not happy. How dare the Tarheels only be winning by ONE point against the Florida Gulf Coast Beauty School and Tire Repair Center?

Regarding these #1/#16 match ups, I’ve often wondered just how hard are the #1 seeds really trying? I’m not suggesting the #1 seeded team is slacking off but perhaps their playing might be a little less aggressive. What good would it do to go balls to the wall full tilt against a #16 seed opponent, risking injury or exhaustion that could hurt the team against the higher seeded opponents to come? Especially in the 1st half. And in the 2nd half, the Tarheels did play more like a #1 seed and easily put away the Florida Gulf Coast Cooking School and Gardening Supply Store*.

*This is not the first time I’ve had an opportunity to insult Florida Gulf Coast. Click here for a previous go at this prestigious institute of higher learning.

In Carolina’s 2nd game of the tournament, the Tarheels handily defeated Providence which led to a minimum of fussing at the TV.  

Meanwhile, Duke started off its run in the NCAA with a fairly non-problematic game on Thursday but nearly ran up against what could’ve been a historically bad loss on Saturday. So here’s the deal with that. Duke was going up against Yale which is a team of actually collegiate players and not, as I assumed, their butler proxies. (“Excellent shot, Jeeves, old bean!”) In the first half, Yale did not impress as Duke basically had their way with Yale racking up a 27 point lead at one point, draining 3 pointers with unhindered impunity. This was a romp and stomp in the most classic sense. It was enough to almost make me feel embarrassed for Yale. Almost but not quite.

Then there was the 2nd half and any feelings of embarrassment now shifted to my Blue Devils who were being out played in every sense of the word. Balls that had been dropping through the net with an astonishing level of frequency and grace were now dully recoiling off the rim while Yale’s shots were falling through the hoop with a frustrating regularity. Just last week, I had to deal with Duke losing a 16 point advantage over Notre Dame during the first game of the ACC Tournament. Could an even worse scenario being playing out on a wider stage against Yale? Would a game where Duke held a 27 point advantage actually turn into defeat for the Blue Devils? As the game neared its merciful end, Yale pulled closer and closer still. At one point with barely a minute to go, Duke’s lead was cut to 3 points. But Duke pulled out a couple of miracle plays out of its miracle book (the same book  that contains the secret of Coach K’s perennially jet black hair) and won the game, 71-64.

Duke, I don’t need this kind of pressure.

There was another pair of games that caught my attention. Friday, I happened to catch the match up between Northern Iowa and higher seeded Texas. For a long time, I was puzzled by the uniforms for Northern Iowa. What is a UNI? Is it some kind of wild creature native to the plains of Iowa? It took me way too long to figure out that UNI stood of University of Northern Iowa and was not the name of a mascot. So Northern Iowa (or UNI, if you prefer) was leading Texas. However, the momentum turned Texas’ way and with barely seconds to spare, Texas tied up the game. With barely a sliver of a second on the clock, there was no way for UNI to score so it looked like the game was going to overtime where the advantage rest with Texas.

Except in that bare sliver of a second, a player for UNI heaved the ball from almost mid-court and that sucker went in for 3 points and zero time left for Texas to do anything about it. It had to be the most amazing last second save for a game I’ve ever seen.

Then it all fell apart on Sunday when UNI played Texas A&M and squandered a 12 point lead in the course of the last 34 seconds of the game.

From the absolute highest peak of accomplishment to the lowest humiliation of defeat, all within 48 hours.

That’s the NCAA Basketball Tournament for you: a constant struggle of both physicality and emotion all rolled up in one orange ball.

It’s a pressure I could never put up with and my respect to those young men who can.

That’s that for today. Another post coming up tomorrow. Until then, remember to be good to one another.

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